UNITED NATIONS — Diplomats around the world have failed to agree on a United Nations treaty designed to protect marine life on the high seas after a fifth round of talks ended in deadlock.
Negotiations at UN headquarters in New York were suspended early Saturday after two weeks of talks that environmentalists had hoped would close a gap in international measures to protect the sea.
A proposed treaty would establish rules for protecting biodiversity in two-thirds of the world’s ocean areas outside national jurisdictions.
Less than 1% of the high seas will be protected without a new treaty, and “bags of marine protection aren’t enough” for endangered species, said Maxine Burkett, the deputy assistant secretary of state of the United States involved in the negotiations.
The global goal is to set aside 30% of the ocean area as some sort of marine reserve.
Ocean health is also critical to combating climate change, as more than 90% of the excess heat from climate change is absorbed by the seas. Heat waves at sea are getting longer and more frequent.
“The ocean cannot afford any further delay,” Burkett said earlier this week, as the negotiations looked promising.
In the Caribbean, “our livelihoods depend directly on the health of the ocean,” said Janine Felson, Belize’s ambassador to the United Nations.
The talks focused on sharing the benefits of marine life, establishing protected areas, preventing damage from human activities on the high seas, and helping poor countries acquire the skills and resources for ocean research.
Campaigners expressed disappointment at the failure to reach a deal, but said talks made some progress.
Laura Meller, who leads Greenpeace’s ocean conservation campaign, accused rich countries like the United States of being too slow to compromise.
“Russia has also been a major blocker in the negotiations, either by refusing to participate in the treaty process itself, or by trying to compromise with the European Union and many other states on a wide range of issues,” Meller said.
Talks will resume next year unless an emergency special session is held before the end of 2022.
US Deputy Secretary of State Monica Medina also expressed disappointment, but expressed hope that the work done so far would continue. She said the United States remains committed to the goal of protecting at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
“We can’t let the tides and currents push us back. We have to keep going,” Medina said.
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